Muqaddimah – Tafsir Nizam-ul-Quran – Univocity of the Quranic Text
The Holy Qur’ān makes the intended meanings of its text absolutely clear. Every single verse gives a single definitive message. It is only the lack of research and study of a verse on the part of the exegetes that makes it seem subject to various interpretations. The commentators who have ascribed multiple interpretations to the earlier authorities have, in fact, tried to record everything that reached them from the preceding generations. They did not mean to say that the verse definitely allowed all these various interpretations. Rather, they have left it upon us to choose from these various interpretations after careful analysis. It is, therefore, not allowable that we learn and commit to memory all that has been said in this regard, treating the sound and the weak equally, and let ourselves wander in the maze of ignorance and doubt. Imām Razī has, in his commentary, recorded five interpretations of the word “fitnah” (persecution) occurring in the verse 191 of Sūrah Baqarah. Obviously all of them could not have been intended by the author. Therefore, in my tafṣir, I have written only what I found right after due research with the confidence that the great scholars of the past have always adopted a similar approach. Variety of interpretations, in fact, leave a serious student of the Book of God wondering what to take as true and what to discard as spurious. Sometimes people do not even put the arguments in favour of such interpretations but compile all the sayings which have reached them regarding a certain matter. I believe that no greater form of injustice can be imagined upon the interpreters of the past and their interpretations with this kind of an approach.
On my part, I have not directly borrowed the meanings and applications of the verses from the commentaries of the scholars of the past. Rather, I have pondered over the verses in the light of the context and taking help from their parallels in the Holy Qur’ān. This way, once I had gained clarity upon the meaning of the verses , only then I looked for corroborative evidence in the earlier exegetical works from amongst the likes of Razi and Tabari. Sometimes I found exactly similar interpretations ascribed to the earlier scholars and sometimes my understanding happened to be quite close to what they held. However, many a times I was forced to abandon my own interpretation whereas at some other difficult instances I kept the matter under consideration for a long time. Whatever the case, I always ascribed these difficulties to lack of understanding and knowledge on my part and upon the tendency of earlier reporters to stick to erroneous interpretations.
It sounds strange that one can get confused on the Holy Qur’ān, a book that claims to be a clear and manifest message. However, if we consider the multi layered darkness of heedlessness and defilement which has polluted our minds we may be able to see the reason for this confusion. Many a clear and indubitable facts remain unnoticed if one approaches them being wrapped in intellectual darkness. That God exists, that He is One and Unique, that mind rules over body, that there is going to be a Judgment Day, are indubitable facts to any rational person. Yet many doubt and deny even the existence of God and the Last Day let alone less conspicuous realities. Soul too, like the body, can suffer from certain ailments. Once it is afflicted most obvious facts can get blurred. Facts are addressed and communicated to sound minds; an ailing mind cannot be expected to grasp them. That sun gives light and that sugar is sweet are empirical facts acknowledged by all sound minds. But a blind, squint, and heavily fevered person cannot perceive them like a normal human being. The Almighty has made it clear in the Holy Qur’ān that all men may not acknowledge the truth equally. While referring to the characteristics of the Holy Qur’ān the Almighty says (2:2):
[It is] guidance for the God-conscious
At another place it has been said (17:45):
When you recite the Qur’ān (to them), We put a thick veil between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter
This theme has been referred to in some other places too. Socrates, in one of his remark, says that the human soul knows everything but it is only that, at times, forgetfulness overtakes it. Mawlānā Rūm has said, “do not interpret the Qur’ān according to your desire, rather accord yourself with what the Holy Qur’ān says.” Khawājah Ḥāfiẓ says, “the greatest veil is your nafs (self); remove it.” One has to ponder very carefully what these great sages meant by these sayings.
I believe that the Qur’ān has communicated its purport in the most demonstrative and appropriate style. Wherever it departs from customary usage it does so in order to point towards a specific meaning. I will discuss this issue in a separate introduction to this book wherein I will try to elaborate the principles which, if properly applied, remove the possibility of multiple interpretations of a Qur’ānic verse. I am also convinced of the fact that the mutashābih (allegorical verses) and the ḥurūf al muqaṭṭa‘āt (the abbreviated letters) are no less clear. I will deal with them in a separate introduction.